Archaeology, radiocarbon and dietary stable isotopes: novel approaches to 14C dating of Baltic archaeological material

Duration of the project

01.03.2021. - 30.11.2021.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

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University of Tartu
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Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZSBA)
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Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel

Project Manager

PhD Ester Oras

Project goals

This project has three goals:

  1. To critically evaluate previously obtained 14C dates from Estonia, esp. for Bronze Age burial contexts, in relation to dietary input.
  2. To learn and test novel analytical methods, esp. quantitative paleodiet reconstruction, DRE estimation and statistical modelling of calibrated dates, for these burials.
  3. To develop those skills among the Estonian archaeologists, resulting in raised awareness of the use of 14C dating in archaeological research and higher quality research output.

This project will be re-analysing previously collected datasets, and some additional 14C dating and dietary stable isotope analysis will be conducted. A dedicated research article will be written and the results presented at international conferences.

Main activities and venues

  1. Evaluation and detailed analysis of Bronze and Stone Age 14C dates from Estonia (Ester Oras, Mari Tõrv, John Meadows, Valter Lang; Aivar Kriiska; UT Department of Archaeology; online meetings).
  2. Organizing a 1-day workshop and public lecture on the evaluation and analysis of 14C dates (Ester Oras, Mari Tõrv, John Meadows, Aivar Kriiska; UT Department of Archaeology).
  3. Writing a research paper on Bronze Age 14C dates from Estonia (Ester Oras, Mari Tõrv, John Meadows, Valter Lang; Aivar Kriiska; UT Department of Archaeology).
  4. Two research visits to CAU  by Mari Tõrv and Ester Oras to acquire new skills of combined dietary stable isotope analysis (δ13C, δ15N and δ34S)  and 14C dating and collaboration advancements with CAU Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, esp relating to ancient dietary analysis (Mari Tõrv, John Meadows; Kiel). (NB! As the meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists has now turned into virtual conference only, Ester Oras’ planned conference visit is replaced by a personal research visit to CAU ROOTS cluster of excellence for exchange of knowledge and advancing research collaboration with one of the leading ancient dietary research centers in Europe).

Public events

  1. Workshop for researchers and PhD students at the UT (archaeology, geology): New OxCal calibration programme and statistical modelling with radiocarbon dates (08.10 .2021; organizer Ester Oras, Mari Tõrv; speaker John Meadows; UT Department of Archaeology).
  2. Seminar as Laboratory Archaeology Group meeting on current research projects by John Meadows (06.10.2021; Organizer Ester Oras; speaker John Meadows; UT Department of Archaeology).

Two presentations at the international conferences: European Association of Archaeologists meeting now organised as a virtual conference (8-11 Sept 2021, Kiel; speakers Mari Tõrv, Ester Oras); Radiocarbon and Diet conference (13-16 Sept 2021, Oxford; speaker Mari Tõrv)

Direct and indirect target group

Direct: Research collaborators at related institutes (min. 6-7 persons)

Indirect: Archaeological research community at the UT Department of Archaeology (min. 25 people in Estonia) and academic audiences at the international conferences (ca. 100 people)